Two side effects that some people experience when coming off of Benzodiazepines is Derealization and Depersonalization. They are 2 of the most difficult side effects to explain to someone who has not experienced them. So I will start by quoting "Wikipedia":
"Depersonalization (or depersonalisation) is an anomaly of
the mechanism by which an individual has self-awareness. It is a feeling
of watching oneself act, while having no control over a situation. Sufferers feel they have changed, and the world has become less real,
vague, dreamlike, or lacking in significance. It can be a disturbing
experience, since many feel that, indeed, they are living in a "dream".
Derealization (sometimes abbreviated as DR) is an
alteration in the perception or experience of the external world so that
it seems unreal. Other symptoms include feeling as though one's
environment is lacking in spontaneity, emotional colouring and depth.
Derealization is a subjective experience of unreality of the outside world, while depersonalization
is unreality in one's sense of self. Although most authors currently
regard derealization (surroundings) and depersonalization (self) as
independent constructs, many do not want to separate derealization from
depersonalization. The main reason for this is nostological,
because these symptoms often co-occur, but there is another, more
philosophical reason: the idea that the phenomenological experience of
self, others, and world is one continuous whole. Thus, feelings of
unreality may blend in and the person may puzzle over deciding whether
it is the self or the world that feels unreal to them."
Still confused? Well, today I experienced this. I experience it a few times a week. My husband knows when I am experiencing it because he'll ask me, "What is wrong?"...and I'll answer with, "I don't know...I just don't feel right". So today I will try to walk you through the feeling so that you can understand.
Today my husband and I went to our daughter's school assembly. It was the Christmas assembly and all of the children were dressed in red and green. The energy was high and smiles were worn on everyone's face. The children sat on the gymnasium floor as carols were sung. The parents sat in chairs along the back of the gym. I felt good. I slept well last night - up until 5:45am when I woke up and could not fall back asleep (due to my husband's snoring...not something that happens often). So I rested in bed until the alarm went off 1 hour later. When it was time to officially greet the day, I made some toast and peanut butter for my daughter, grabbed her vitamins and then proceeded to make her lunch for school. I managed to fit in a shower before my husband and I walked her to school. When we arrived, we found 2 seats for ourselves and waited for the assembly to begin. I was fine. I was happy and calm. Then things drastically changed in a matter of seconds. I turned to quickly talk to someone behind me, then turned back to face the front..and that was it. My body went ice cold. My hands trembled. My nails were purple. My stomach turned and I couldn't tell if I had to vomit, burp or just eat. The voices of the children became muffled. When someone smiled at me, I smiled back...but seconds later I couldn't figure out if we had really just smiled at each other. I felt as though my body travelled across the room and inspected each and every person around me. Not literally, but more I was aware I was in the assembly, but didn't feel "present". I was frozen. I was in the midst of panic, but I also didn't feel real. My body wasn't my own even though I felt every wave of nausea and the tight band around my ribs and diaphragm. I felt the coldness that literally chilled me to the bone. I felt so cold it hurt.
When the assembly ended, I could not get out of there quick enough. My husband and I walked outside, said a quick good-bye to friends, and as soon as no one but my husband was in my presence, I cried. "I feel horrid", I said to my husband. I didn't know how else to explain it. When we got home and I sat on the sofa, I said, "it's like I'm here but I'm not". It's as though you have no control of your body and it frightens you so deeply that you turn inwards. You hope and pray no one will see you or speak to you. Because to answer back takes every ounce of energy. You feel as though you just might die if you open your mouth...or move an inch. You are aware of what is happening, but it feels unreal. You see the room you're in, but the colours fade slightly and instead of living in 3D, you live in 2D.
Today frustrated me. After a few days of "good" and gaining optimism, this really brought me back down. I know it will not last - eventually this will ALL pass and no longer will my days consist of physical and/or mental side effects. This week gave me a glimpse into better days to come. I am now 5 months "Benzo Free" - well on my way! Most people who have difficulty coming off of Benzos, fully heal between 6-18 months. I'm getting there. I am thankful that this should be my last Christmas with any ill effects from Psychotropics of any kind. That is something to celebrate!